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I'm not entirely convinced the LDS GA's are, in fact, significantly more conservative than the general membership--only that they have to ACT ultra-conservative in most cases, to prevent the population at large from taking anything they say and do as an excuse to become more liberal themselves...standing as far away from the 'edge' as possible, in a sense.

Thanks for the link, Dave. I'm curious as to why the devolution of the CofC's Mormonism and its corresponding contraction is evidence that such actions are inherently a mistake? They were much smaller to begin with, their missionary program is almost non-existent, and they have the Mormon Heritage albatross to contend with, limiting any efforts in outreach. It could be postulated that far from being an example of what the LDS church should not do, they are actually the canary in the coal mine.

I find the whole "fundamentalism" charge somewhat problematic - if only because I can't make head nor tales of what most mean by it. It seems that outside of the period from the 1960's to the 1980's under the influence of McConkie's approach to literalism, there is little to suggest fundamentalism. If FARMS and related movements are the most significant theological trend in Mormonism, then fundamentalism seems even more misplaced.

I agree the analysis of the churches governance was very interesting. Following up with what Ann said: The democratic leanings of the CoC have left the church with a huge amount of accommodation that renders the whole movement inconsistent. Despite the large recent donation, the church is struggling. I am however biased, knowing some who have left the CoC for splinter groups.

Good point, Ann -- popularity is not the proper measure of "correctness" for churches. But I wasn't really suggesting that the decline of "the church formerly known as RLDS" in and of itself means that their new position on various issues or doctrines is thereby shown to be incorrect. However, at the very least, the decision of a significant percentage of previously involved and financially contributing RLDS members to suddenly withhold support or simply exit suggests that the leadership went about things in the wrong way. It is really a church governance verdict: the RLDS Church did a poor job of managing organizational change (to employ corporate speak).

Timing and the pace of change are tough to get right in churches, which are inherently conservative organizations rather than smoothly evolving ones. I think the LDS Church has done better in terms of timing -- the Big Changes (polygamy in 1890, race in 1978) seemed to be timed right and lost very few members considering how significant the changes were from a doctrinal perspective.

As a counterexample, I think the timing and effect of the September Six actions were not well considered, but I am certainly in the minority in that view. In any case, the only lasting effect, if any, has been on BYU, not on the Church as a whole, and most members are entirely unaware of the whole issue. In light of Murphy and Palmer, one could also make the case that the Church has muddled its way through to a more workable "rattle the sword but don't use it" approach.

a few comments...

First, Dave, I don't see the big doctrinal change in 1890. I see a change of practice and probably not teaching certain doctrines any longer. It could be argued that 1978 simply corrected superstitions and rendered previous explanations void. There was a shift in doctrine (and it could have gone further), but I am not sure if it changed any fundamental doctrines of the church. Also, it is my impression that the majority of members welcomed the change. Admittedly I was a child at the time and have no recollection of attitudes and reactions, so I am relying on what others have told me.

Now before you thing that I'm way off topic, think of what doctrinal changes would have to occur in the LDS church to accomodate practicing homosexuals within the priesthood and the temple. The CoC has a much easier time here since they don't accept the temple ordinances and the accompanying theology.

One word in particular in the piece set off a nitpick that led to a cascade of thoughts. Here is the sentence:

while any progressive influences among LDS members are mitigated by the inordinate power of a conservative hierarchy.

The use of the word "inordinate" strikes me as harsh and judgemental. Unless they mean that the power is excessive when compared to the CoC hierarchy. Oddly, if you look at the roots of the word, you get "not ordained", which makes its use particularly perplexing, given that these people have power because they are ordained. If anything, the unordained members of the CoC making policy changes have a more literally "inordinate" power.

Of course this all goes back to the question of whether ordination has deep meaning and if the leaders are actually called of God to reveal his will for the Church or if that is the duty of the membership as a whole.

a random John,

I think it is a common mistake to see the repudiation of polygamy as merely "a change of practice" and "not teaching certain doctrines any longer." As Kathleen Flake's new book points out, this was no small course correction. Prior to the manifestos, "polygamy" was basically synonymous with "exaltation" and "eternal marriage". The vestiges of this can still be seen in D&C 132. Polygamy was the crowning revelation in the "restoration of all things" -- the "proof" that that Mormons were the new Israel, God's new chosen people. This is why many people (including many of the apostles, and probably Woodruff himself) understood the Manifesto to only somewhat restrict the practice of polygamy in the U.S., not to repudiate it as the Lord's will. It's easy to see polygamy as ancillary to the restored gospel from our perspective, but from my reading, I think this would be inconsistent with how it was understood at the time.

You may have misread my statement, though in retrospect I could have been more clear. It seems to me that, as you said, the manifesto changed the practice of polygamy, not the doctrines associated with it. Now those doctrines are not discussed, say in gospel doctrine class, so members of the church may not be as informed about them. I am not claiming that it is insignificant now, just that it isn't discussed. In fact, it is still practiced at times in the case where the wife dies and the husband is sealed to another woman.

To restate, reading OD 1, which is a strange bit of scripture if I do say so myself, I don't see anything that changes beliefs, only practices. Over time the beliefs that aren't practiced are have been less emphasized and probably less understood, but they have not been outright repudiated.

a random John,

Thanks for clarifying. An interesting question is whether polygamy is still doctrine, and if so, in what sense: we don't practice it, we don't teach it, most contemporary Mormon probably don't believe we will ever practice it again, and many, if not most, contemporary Mormons probably don't believe it is part and parcel of exaltation. While you're right that OD1 didn't change beliefs, I think that the Second Manifesto, the campaign to excommunicate polygamists, and the general mainstreaming of Mormonism in the 20th century has served to actually change beliefs, not just practice.

I've read this article and did not come away with a happy feeling. I'm a FLAG. My favorite cousin is a lesbian, and I was pleased to be able to write a letter to the British Embassy when she was seeking to emigrate as a domestic partner of her partner, a Brit whose immigration status was being pulled. I'm a firm proponent of gay rights, I support gay marriage, and I dislike the church's policies very much.


I simply don't get agree with the assumption that opposition to SSM and homophobia are equivalent; an assumption that permeated the text of the linked article. It's like the writers don't see the possibility that opponents of gay and lesbian marriage and domestic partnerships see strong biblical support for their ideas.

I know the point of the article was the differences in polity, but the assumption was just so...assumed (!) that I thought I'd register my irritation here. Gotta keep that post count up if I want to keep my link in February!

Re: whether OD-1 changed doctrine: I really think not; witness Harold B. Lee, Howard W. Hunter, and Dallin H. Oaks, all of whom will have plural wives in the CK.


You have posted the examples that I was thinking of. I have no idea what the official doctrine is because there is no discussion of it, but it seems to be a change of practice and of public teachings but not a repudiation of doctrine.

With a few notable exceptions I've found that LDS General Authorities are much more enlightened and liberal in their views than most active LDS. Not by any stretch of the imagination can the Utah Church be labeled "fundamentalist."

I also want to know where in the world did folks get the idea that the Community of Christ is so democratic? We're an incredibly centralised organisation. We are not a bunch of free church congregationalists. There are few, in fact, next to no grassroots initiatives in the Community of Christ...hardly a healthy sign of the self-governing and self-organising virtues of democracy.

Democracy, particularly the civic republican kind would be a great improvement over what we Communitarians have right now. Steve Veazey...are you listening?

Radical Latter Day Saint

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